DEDICATED TO PROTECTING ENDANGERED SPECIES
Name: Matthew Grima Connel
Role: Environment Protection Officer
Main Responsibilities: Focal Point of the CITES Convention, Public Awareness in the United Nation’s International Decade of Biodiversity Campaign, Implementation of the Wild Birds Regulations
Educational Background: B.Sc. (Hons.) Biology and Chemistry
Hobbies: Digital art, motion graphics, design, music, fish keeping, traveling and camping
Can you explain what your role entails and your main areas of responsibility?
Being responsible for administering the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), together with my colleague, Joseph, my role comprises of various administrative, reporting, permitting and compliance processes that MEPA executes both independently and in conjunction with other departments, namely: Customs; Police; Veterinary Services and the Trade Department.
My work also involves controls which go beyond the CITES Convention to cater for species which are either protected by other legal instruments or may cause harm to local biodiversity should these escape into the wild. I am also involved in the United Nation’s International Decade of Biodiversity campaign, where I am responsible of public awareness through delivering educational talks and organising site tours for the general public.
Additionally, I am also involved in the implementation of the Wild Birds Regulations where my main responsibility is that of setting up hunting exams which allow new hunters to gain their Police hunting licences.
Could you describe a typical day within your role?
In order to be able to deal with my diverse responsibilities in and out of the office work, I am bound to set timeframes to which I try to adhere. I try that during the mornings, especially on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays when the CITES office is open to the public for the endorsement of Customs Entry forms, I carry out my office duties while I generally leave afternoons to carry out onsite compliance visits.
What have your highlights of your career at MEPA been so far?
Being part of the Maltese delegation at the 15th CITES Conference of the Parties held in Doha, Qatar, last year was definitely a highlight in my career. I believe that in the future, if I manage to dedicate more time to CITES which is quite a complex legal instrument, I will certainly come across many more new opportunities which will add to this latest highlight.
What challenges have you faced/do you face within your role?
Taking prompt decisions is any essential component when dealing with CITES related cases which is not always easy given its ambiguous legal interpretation. When live specimens are involved the situation gets even more complicated as these cannot be retained for long at Customs offices.
Another challenge is learning how to deal with various customers that visit our offices to get their documents cleared. I have learnt that being pragmatic and patient are usually the keys to successfully addressing and sorting out issues.
What is your main motivation that keeps you dedicated to delivering a top quality service?
Knowing that through my work I am contributing to minimising illegal trade in endangered species is a strong motivational factor. Together with this the fact that I am contributing in increasing public awareness of the rich, local biodiversity and exposed to new species and experiences also keeps me motivated to deliver my best and keep a diligent approach towards my work.